Samosapedia, a website that banks on crowd-sourcing, is a glossary of all terms desi. NITHYA SIVASHANKAR has a bindaas conversation with its founders
“There's four of us porkis actively working on Samosapedia and we do not yet have a photograph together,” wrote Arvind when I contacted him for a story on Samosapedia. “We would love to answer your questions, full josh and putting masala,” he said.
If your vocabulary includes terms such as porki, josh and masala, or if you do want to know what these words stand for, head to Samosapedia(www.samosapedia.com). A group of enthu cutlets have created this website, which is a lexicon for South Asian (predominantly Indian) patois. At first sight, it reminds one of Urban Dictionary (www.urbandictionary.com). This desi website (think ayyoyo, Lard Labak Das, lau, cutting chai and waste fellow) claims to be more riveting than a Hobson-Jobson. For instance, if you are clueless when your Bambaiyaa friend sarcastically says, “Hawa aane de”, Malayali friend exclaims, “Adipoli” or a Kannadiga cousin calls you to “thulp some oota”, fret not. Samosapedia comes to your rescue.
Arun Ranganathan, Arvind Thyagarajan, Vikram Bhaskaran, and Braxton Robbasson, the four Masthkutteers (as they like to call themselves), who “abscond between” NYC, San Franscisco and Bangalore, are the “culprits behind Samosapedia”. Having come from backgrounds in entrepreneurship and technology start-ups, writing, acting, storytelling, software engineering, web architecture, “mountain climbing and high-altitude astronomy”, these 30-somethings started the website ainvayi.
Says Arvind, “In October 2010, Vikram and Arun started chit chatting about this and that, and said wouldn't it be absolutely hilarious to launch a lexicon of desi slang?”
They initially thought they'd call the lexicon ‘wonly.in' (denoting ‘Wonly in India' or ‘We are like this wonly'). “As the idea progressed, they quickly realised that the idea was bigger than India, and demanded a more unifying name,” he says. “Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, for example, have their own unique lexicon, as do the Sri Lankans, but we also have so much in common that we wanted a site that the entire diaspora could relate to.” And, thus, in July 2011, this “veritable golden repository of poly-nation linguistic cross pollination/ a place to laugh with bulging brains at a flat world” was born.
Samosapedia is a place where one can just chillofi. You can create an account, add words used in your casual, vernacular conversations or learn new words from “The Daily Chutney” (Word of the day) and chumma use them. Arvind says the website aims to offer laughter and simple fun. “(Samosapedia is)… an outlet for nostalgindia. Our central goal is to encourage people to write, contribute, express themselves, and enjoy the process of sharing their own unique brand of humour and outlook with the Samosapedia world.”
With entries such as Campa Cola, Gold Spot, Lagori, Joy icecream, Washing Powder Nirma, Hawai Chappal, Rough Notebook and Godrej, “‘mammaries' indeed come flooding” (“What happens when you hear the word ‘native place' or ‘summer holidays' or ‘mango'? mammaries come flooding, no? That only.”)
Samosapedia, within a matter of a month, has become hugely popular with the net junta. “One thing I can safely say is that our readers are an opinionated bunch and we love them for it!” says Arvind. “The responses have been unanimously positive and anonymously nit-picky. And, here I thought ‘splitting hairs' was putting one nice sharp centre parting and two tight plaits with coconut oil and ribbons.” Questions, however, have been raised around the term “South Asia”, he adds. “We see it as purely geographic and aim to focus on our cultural similarities, uniqueness, and amazing connections as a global community.”
The global samosa
Ask him why the name ‘Samosapedia', and Arvind says, “We love hot samosas. Who doesn't? Picture a warm monsoon evening. You are standing at a busy roadside vendor's shop, with a steaming cup of cutting chai and a plate of samosas, one-by-two, with a good friend. In Burma, they put them in soup, in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya the sambusas are popular. The samosa is as global as we are, thus Samosapedia.” The founders thought the “dissonance” that the terms samosa and the “exalted pedia” brought along with them was giggle-worthy. “Just to push it a little further, in Tamil “Samosapedia” would translate directly to “hold the samosa” and this seals it in as a community responsibility to contribute! Imagine a picture of Uncle Shomu pointing straight at you and saying ‘You hold the samosa, my friend. Do not let me down.'”
Keywords: Samosapedia website